On June 11, WUSA-TV reported that a woman who had brought her stepson to a June 1 protest in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square was joining a federal lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union against various federal officials over authorities’ alleged use of tear gas and unreasonable force against the proverbial “peaceful protesters.”
Police took action to disperse the protesters, of course, so that President Donald Trump could make his way to St. John’s Church.
“He actually said to one of his teachers, which is what prompted us to say hey he’s not handling this well, that there was a war, and that the government was trying to kill black people,” Toni Sanders told WUSA.
“At that point, I said to myself, ‘I, I can’t offer him comfort, because that is what’s going on.’ And it’s hard because you’re a 9-year-old. And this isn’t something that you should have to think about, this isn’t something that you should have to carry with you, but you’re carrying it with you.”
The suit claims U.S. Park Police used force that wasn’t commensurate with the threat.
As the narrative goes, police shouldn’t have been clearing Lafayette Square, anyway, since the president’s visit was just a “photo op.” Before then, it was apparently just basically a fun meetup in the park that got busted up by the feds.
On Wednesday, the Department of the Interior — which is responsible for the Park Police — countered that narrative with a bit of video footage showing just how peaceful those meetups in the park were.
Warning: The following video contains violent images and vulgar language that some viewers may find disturbing.
“The video shows agitators throwing bricks, glass, bottles, and other assaults against law enforcement officers,” a Department of the Interior spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon.
“More than 60 U.S. Park Police officers have been injured since these protests started, some hospitalized requiring surgeries.”
Is this something you should bring your 9-year-old to?
The video, according to the agency, was taken during protests before June 1, when authorities cleared Lafayette Square to give Trump a path to visit St. John’s Church. The actions taken by police were roundly criticized by Trump’s political opponents and media commentators, who have repeatedly characterized the ongoing nationwide anti-police protests as peaceful.
“The Park Police defended the decision to clear Lafayette Park, emphasizing the violence officers had dealt with in the days leading up to June 1,” the Free Beacon reported.
In other words, this wasn’t quite peaceful before the events of June 1 — and it definitely wasn’t the kind of place you should bring a 9-year-old.
In terms of participatory democracy for the family, this wasn’t quite bringing your kid to to the Presidents of the United States log flume at the local theme park. This was the kind of situation where chemical irritants and other forms of police force were very likely to be deployed.
While we’re at it, there’s some question as to what chemical irritants we’re talking about.
According to CNN, the Park Police apologized on June 5 for originally saying they didn’t use tear gas, but said that officers didn’t use what we’d traditionally call tear gas — artificial CS gas. However, they did deploy “pepper balls,” which used “natural” tear gas — in other words, small balls of pepper spray.
“As many of the protestors became more combative, continued to throw projectiles, grab officer’s protective equipment, and even attempted to grab one officers’ weapon, officers then employed the use of smoke canisters, stinger balls, and pepper balls,” Acting Park Police Chief Gregory T. Monahan then said in a June 13 statement. “On June 1, USPP officers and other assisting law enforcement partners operating under the command of the USPP did not use tear gas or Skat Shells to close the area at Lafayette Park.”
The Secret Service meanwhile, says it deployed pepper spray, not tear gas. In a June 13 statement, they said they “released information stating the agency had concluded that no agency personnel used tear gas or capsicum spray during efforts to secure the area near Lafayette Park on Monday, June 1, based on the records and information available at the time. Since that time, the agency has learned that one agency employee used capsicum spray (i.e., pepper spray) during that effort.”
However, WUSA reporters who picked up canisters from the scene say they found CS gas shells among the debris, too.
Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that this wasn’t just a peaceful protest that went awry.
Part of the outrage is that this kind of gas could put “medically vulnerable” people at risk.
“People with lung disease, asthma, COPD, or young children can have long-standing harmful effects from this gas,” Georgetown University medical professor Dr. Ranit Mishori told WUSA.
So, why exactly were they there? This protest was obviously dangerous for them — and the crowd had been given an order to clear out.
I hate to be this blunt, but here’s a tip: If you’re in a protest that may turn violent and you have asthma or COPD, leave. These situations are often controlled by some form of chemical irritant — and if you have a condition that can be severely irritated by tear gas or pepper spray, you need to take care of yourself.
We’re at the end of the month of June and this happened at the very beginning, yet this incident has lived on in the background of the news cycle.
The lasting impression is that this was just some unregenerate use of force against a peaceful crowd that had every reason to be in the park. If this is demonstrably false, any reason to lionize these protesters goes away, as well.
When you assault police with projectiles and physical force, this is what happens.
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